HST296A: Reading Notes: 16 March 2005

Carr, Jacqueline B. After the Siege. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 2005.

Tracing the Butterfield and Clarissa Scotland couple as representative of the employment and living mobility of late 18th cent. working Bostonians.

The database was populated from the Boston Taking Books which combine tax and census-like materials

Boston Population:
pre-1775: 15,000
1775-1780: 3,000
1780s: 10,000
1790s: 18,000
1800: 25,000

1) The Siege of Boston

1774: Gen. Gage replaces Gov. Hutchinson: marshall law
- harbour closed in response to Tea Party, town divided on how to respond
- economic catastrophe - town develops some public works projects to keep people employed but have no funds to continue
- some food relief from other colonies
- soldiers quartered on the green, some die from illness, some harass citizens (mooning!)

Spring 1775 - 10,000 have left. Some stay behind to watch over properties,
- hospitals filling up and overflowing with area wounded soldiers and sick: dysentery, smallpox, famine
- sanitation of streets a problem
- remaining town inhabitants held as hostages so Patriots won;t simply destry the town, though some allowed to go month by month to lessen drain on resources
- surrounding towns fear smallpox in refugees
- winter: foraging for wood in abandoned houses, and tearing down wharfs and damaged buildings for wood
- Continental Army bombarding Boston
- looting is severely punished (both soldier and male/female citizens)
- major fire, chaos and inability to coordinate fire relief means much devastation
- civilians imprisoned for little cause or for rumoured cause - half die in prison

March 1776:
- major bombardment from Gen. Washington who retakes Boston
- more chaos, looting
- Brits leave March 17 taking 900 Tories with them

2) The Character of the Town

Returning Bostonians appoint Committee (5 per ward) to survey and assess damage
Boston is about 2 m x 1.5 m in area
Charles River Bridge opens in 1789

Boston Neck
south, land area swampy, used for grazing
1774: brickyard (one of the public works projects mentioned above)
Boston also leases lands in this area for pasturage to generate town income

South End
Common, the Mall
1788 - streets named
1789-1794: land divided and sold
area contains taverns (stage: 3 1/2 days to New York @ $.04/mile), homes,

Central District
Gov't buildings, wharves, shopping, coffee houses, taverns
Faneuil Hall: upstairs - selectmen space and gathering space
downstairs: markets

North End
ferry, shops, shipyards, warehouses
former Tory homes (but post-war the South and West becomes the more fashionable area)

West End
ropewalks and pastoral
Beacon Hill

Numerous living arrangements: nuclear family + workers, +extended family
- multi family among poor, boarders, racially mixed areas (any households?) but poor blacks predominantly in Fort Hill (south), North end waterfront, by 1790s West End17802-902: 1/2 black population changes residences at least once
1790: black population highest of any Mass. town
1792: black community finally allowed to have own burial ground
1796: African Humane Society - funeral and aid to widows/children
1799: black school
1805: African Baptist Church - West End after yers of meeting in various other places
All these are pull factors for growth of black community in West End

Town challenges; getting poorhouse, almshouse, insane out of sight, regulation and building of raods, sanitation, burial grounds, new building, permits

3) A Well-Ordered Town

March 1776: Bostonians return but city a mess, families disrupted (men in Cont. Army), Massachusetts is calling for supplies for the war effort, refugees are pouring in from other places.

People are actively involved in town government but many hold office for short times or erratically - it's hard to fill offices - many peeople do double duty on offices while still trying to hold regular gainful employment.

Selectmen meet weekly and deal with things like business permits, law infractions, public works, public nuisances, assessing damages, schools, poor relief, approving payments.

1735: workhouse for poor. Assistance only provided for proven citizens (birth, consanguinity, voted by town meeting, approved by selectmen, own property in Boston)
If not accepted, "Warned Out" don't ask for help, go back to where you came from, if you want to stay fine but we can't help you.

1791: increased to three years residency. I f you can make it that long without being Warned Off you can become inhabitant
Nov 1791-Feb 1792: 2,200 warned off, 300 stay in spite of that

- cannot take in someone as servant worker or boarder for more than 20 days without notifying the selectmen

Almshouse: temporary care, overused, underfunded, children bound out (often as infants)

Schools: # of pupils determines teacher pay, so high teacher/student ratio
- object is to make education accessible, so public education system is preferred
- racism leads to separate African schools
- schools serve Republican purpose
1789: New Plan
- male and female until age 14 (male includes classics for Univ. prep.)
- open new schools
- private schools (and specialty schools) need selectmen approval

Markets: regulate the market because privateers and monopolists create want and hunger and violate the sanctity and demoralize virtue of community (p. 119)
1779: wage and price fixing
CCIS: buy local (spy on your neighbors)
1783: set up marketplaces, finding a place for fish market is difficult

Fire: population/building rise makes more fire danger
- illegal building
- building businesses particularly prone to fire (fire used in business)
- clean chimneys 1783: chimney comptroller, fixed prices and monopoly for cleaning
- 1794: big fire, calls for more buckets and engines
- 1803: all buildings over 10 feet to be made of stone

Police: 1791 - we need them
1802 - we need them full time
mostly traffic offenses (dangerous driving!)

Epidemic: 1775-1800, 3 smallpox, 1 yellow fever
- quarantine at home (or prevent coming in by quarantining at Rainsford Island)
- cleanse buildings
- innoculations

Bostonians were constantly defining and redefining publis and private spheres. While the town and selectboard had problems, Bostonians did not incorporate (mayor, alderman, council) until 1822.

4) Bostonians at Work

A Trading Town (not agriculture based)

Daniel Malcolm - a typical middle class example: shares ownership of shop, lives behind store, labourer on the side, becomes shipwright to support wife and 5 kids

in wake of economic collapse of wartime, many request tax abatement (thus less $$ for town)
1780-90: recovery, population growth, ship building work doubles, European ports open up, conspicuous consumption increases
1790s: wealthy start to cluster
 - new money
- many "middling" now owning property

Survival strategies: move around, share shop ownership, share living space, change occupation

ships: pre-war: 125/yr, 1784: 45, 85-87: 15-20
1790s: Boston - Northwest (fur) - Canton - Boston
178901795; 860 ships register Boston as home port

1784-94: 315 new homes, public buildings go up, new and renovated churches, furniture making, coach building
Black employment: seaman, servants, barbers/hairdressers
Women: (many single heads of households from: widows, sailors wives, soldiers wives)
textile/clothing, servants. #1: shop keeper

following war: women hold 20% of tavern licenses, down from pre-war. As 18th became 19th this dropped even more (Republican motherhood, separate spheres, Virtue, etc.)

Some men and women also, no doubt, became "pioneers" to NH, VT, etc.
1785: instructions to town leaders: "buy American" and support local industry (but don't buy too much because that leads to dissipationand vice!)
paper hangings (later wallpaper), also glass factory (granted 15 year monopoly and tax exemption), sailcloth (duck) (for factory men, esp. without families, some housing provided), wool card, cotton card (both shipped to southern states)
Like England, many employed young women and children, providing school and Sunday School in attempts to keep them morally fit

5) The Politics of Leisure

What kind of community do we want to build in wake of war?

Celebrations: parades for Revolution/Constitution etc.
Christmas revels, limited public entertainment

pre-1790s: few advertisements for public events (few events?) mostly of improving kind
1790s: about face - from moral and republic condemnation to "2 theatres, amphitheater, museums," etc (p. 201)

pro: can improve the mind, good tourism, support local economy, improve language, we'll regulate it and keep it clean, one of our "inalienable rights"
con: dissipation, corrupting youth, money better spent on poor (Sam Adams?)

Major topic of town meeting, Oct. 1791: much oration, discussion, argument, doesn't pass (1750 ban upheld)
Philadelphia businessmen put up the money to build theatre in Phila. "Is Boston any less enlightened?" (p. 209) Even Portsmouth, NH and Norwich CT do. Are they better than us?

Powell and Harper build a theatre anyway (Board Alley) and do acrobatics, satire, plays

dec. 5, 1792: police raid, more letters of complaint: "the rich get to have dancing and revelling, why can't the workers have entertainment? (p. 217) except of course if its mothers who want to go out leaving fathers home--destroying the family!!
But actually it was the elite who primarily supported theatre
Dec. 21, 1792: back to Faneuil Hall to meet again! new tack: it's unconstitutional (instead of moral) to deny this right

1793: pro-theatre wins, sort of. House passes bill, Governor doesn't approve or deny bill. De facto, OK, but becomes officially OK in 1797.
1794: Federal Street Theatre opens, burns down in 1798
1796: the Haymarket - aimed at artisan class

Charity benefits ensue.


End of 18th cent.: Boston shifts from provincial town to cosmopolitan community.
Becomes leading port, growing population, work, women still having economic difficulty but after 1800 teaching as women's work opens up as textile production and tavern keeping diminish.
African-Americans build community within community, no intermarriage allowed and in 1788 (but enforced in 1800) non-citizen blacks forced to move (includes Scotlands)

Conscious desire to make Boston great - much debate on how best to do that.

hope.greenberg@uvm.edu, created/updated 16-March-2005
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